Contemporary Account of SCR Construction: Lancaster Guardian - 1870, November 12th

The following contemporary account relating to the construction of the Settle - Carlisle railway appeared on page 3 (column 3) of the November 12th, 1870 edition of the Lancaster Guardian.


On the 22nd of last August the writer, in company with Mr. John Hewitson, went over the railway works from the east side of Settle to the north side of Selside, with the intention of giving a description of the state of the new line and its surroundings, but was prevented from doing so on that date. The matter being delayed so long, and the writer thinking that no description could be satisfactory without knowledge of the further improvements of the works the thing was for the time given up. Inquiries having been made for the article, the writer visited Settle on Friday last, to ascertain the state of the new line from the Settle Junction to Batty Wife Hole. Although some of the incidents of the 22nd August will be blended with the following description, still all matters relating to railway operations will be brought down to Nov 4th.

The junction of the Settle and Carlisle line with the little North Western is two miles on the east of Settle and one and a half mile [sic] from Settle Station. In August a tramway had been laid from the junction to the railway yard at Settle, by which all the material needed for railway operations was forwarded to the different portions of the line lying between Settle and Batty Wife Hole. The tramway has been considerably lengthened since the aforementioned date, so that now as three locomotives are in constant employ a great saving has been effected in cartage. A telegraphic junction has been formed between the railway offices at Settle and Batty Wife Hole, so that messages are sent to and fro with precision and expedition. The first bridge from the junction, which is an occupation bridge, is completed. The second, which is on the Skipton road is being completed for a skew and girder bridge. As this bridge will be large and somewhat ornamental, it will have a fine appearance to persons travelling on the road either east or west. There are four square openings in each abutment which will be arched over, and a long wing wall with numerous openings and back arches. Very little has been done at this bridge since August. Between this bridge and Anley bridge there is a long and very deep cutting through rock of a very hard character and well adapted for building purposes. It is a cutting attended with immense labour on account of its length, depth, and the hardness of the stone to be dug out. In August 106 or more men were employed in this cutting, excavating and dressing the stone dug out. Anley bridge over the Skipton road is in a forward state as the centres are put up, and the masons have begun to turn the arch.

The railway yard, which is a little on the east side of side of [sic] Settle, is a place of much excitement on account of the various occupations going on. The ringing of anvils, the hammering of carpenters, the tramp of heavy horses, the puffing, steaming, and whistling of locomotives, the different keyed voices of workmen, the clang of cutting, grinding, crushing, and sawing machinery, and the quick motions of persons on business, all tended to give the place an aspect of unusual activity and restlessness. The railway yard included within its wooden prescints [sic] a saddler’s shop, a carpenters’ shop, saw mill, store rooms, a 7-flued smithy[1], numerous wooden huts, and two stables fit up for 40 horses. The stables were very clean and the few horses that were there were in excellent condition. A glance into the interior of the stables proved that the four essentials of horse life and comfort were not neglected. Good keep, cleanliness, proper ventilation, and a plentiful supply of clean water. The machinery in operation were circular saws, bean crusher, corn crusher, chaff machine, turning lathe and two revolving monster pans where mortar was ground for all the bridges in the neighbourhood. The hospital which was in this yard has been turned into a room for reading and entertainments. The room which is provided gratuitously by Mr. Ashwell for the benefit of the men on the railway works has been fitted up with books, periodicals, &c., by public subscriptions of money and books. Through the benevolent exertions and liberality of the Rev. Mr. Pierson, J. Thompson, Esq., C.E.J. Ferguson, Esq., and J. Ashwell, Esq., the workmen have the privilege of reading and being instructed in writing, arithmetic, and other branches of an English education gratis. A hospital for the benefit of the workmen who may meet with accidents or fall sick has been opened at the huts on the east side of Settle viaduct. From the railway yard the surrounding scenery was of a most interesting character. Giggleswick’s lofty and over-hanging scars, Ingleborough over-topping the long range of limestone rocks which run in a western direction, the hanging scar of Stainforth, Pennyghent, with its dark and round peak bounding the distant horizon, Castlebar [sic] with its circular top peering over the town of Settle, and the vari-shaped hills rising one above the other as if vieing [sic] for pre-eminence, formed rural views of superior beauty.

The six-arched viaduct which will span a portion of the grounds of Mrs. G. Hartley and the highway near Settle Church, is progressing rapidly. All the piers are nearly completed, the abutments are finished, and the work is nearly ready for the turning of the arches. Between the viaduct and where the railway will cross the high-road to Langcliffe bridge, which is just below Langcliffe Hall, the beautiful residence of Mrs. Perfect, is so far advanced that the centres are put up, and it is ready for the turning of the arches. The scenery from Langcliffe to beyond Stainforth, on both sides of the Ribble, is of a fine and varied character. There is a charming blending of hill and dale, rocks and woods, fertile meadows and barren heaths, mountain and valley streams, the mansions of the rich, and the cottages and farmsteads of the labouring class.

The headings of Taitlands tunnel are finished. This tunnel, which is 210 feet in length, passes under the lawn and coach house of Mr Stackhouse. The scenery from this stand point is unusually good. The scars on the north in the direction of Settle. With long strips of forest trees at their base and the hills rising high above Langcliffe and Settle, were rendered more imposing by the dazzling sunlight. Awfeld (perhaps awful) and Hanging Scar were exceedingly fine. Asking a man who was trimming a fence the name of the sharply-marked conical hill on the north side of Langcliffe, he said, “That’s called Blua-a-hill, on which beacon fires used to burn when Napoleon was thinking of invading Old England.” He spoke of an old lady who lived in those days when so many hearts quaked for fear of Napoleon’s landing. One day she went up on the mountains to a man who was mending a fence-wall, with the alarming news, “Napoleon has landed.” The mountain waller, so far from throwing down his stones and taking to his heels, said “I’ll finish my gap if he be landed.” At Stainforth carpenters were at work building a village of huts for the workmen on the line. This village which is nearly sheltered by hills on the north, contains many excellent houses, and its whole appearance was calculated to impress a stranger with the idea that many of its inhabitants are thriving yeomen and farmers.

Near Sherwood Brow, two viaducts will cross the Ribble, at the distance of one-fifth of a mile. The excavations for the foundations of both viaducts are being carried on with some degree of briskness. No one, with an eye for the beautiful and romantic scenery in creation, can stand on Sherwood Brow on a fine day and then forget the wonderful panorama that will silently pass before his astonished sight. On the south-east, Pendle Hill bounds the sight; on the north-east, hills of various forms and attitudes flanked with long ranges of limestone scars; on the north, Pennyghent; on the west, Ingleborough and Moughton Fell; on the south, Smearsett Hill and Ribble far down, rushing amongst limestone blocks with a sighing and whistling noise. Helwith cutting was a busy place. The scene was quite picturesque, for some of the workmen were drilling rocks, some employed with pick and spade, some were stemming and preparing for blasting, some were loading wagons with rock, while some were raising, by means of a powerful crane, immense blocks of rock from their long undisturbed beds. A little further up the line there is a flag-mill on the south side of Ribble, and the railway on the north, and both are on the brink of the stream. A number of men were employed in making a strong river wall, to protect the railway from encroachment from the floods in wet weather. The scene was very wild, and the whir of wheels, the click-clack of moving saws, and the shallow and spreading stream rushing with a bubbling noise round the embedded boulders were sure to gain some attention from the passer by. Helwith Bridge will be taken down when the new county bridge, which has already been commenced, shall be completed. The new bridge will have five arches; the workmen have begun the excavation for its foundations. Helwith viaduct, which is one-eight [sic] of a mile from Helwith bridge, will cross the Ribble, and have four arches. The piers and abutments are all in.

Crag Hill cutting, which is three-quarters of a mile from Helwith viaduct, and a little over a quarter of a mile in length, is nearly finished. Horton cutting, which is a quarter of a mile in length, is about half finished. Two occupation bridges are in course of erection near this cutting, the abutments of one of which are nearly completed, and the foundation for the other is being excavated. A large piece of excavation is done for the station at Horton. In passing through Horton one could not but notice the old church with its leaden roof, and the post-office in the church yard. At Blind Beck, a little beyond Horton, where the road has been diverted into a new road, which is a very good and substantial one, is completed. A culvert under the bank, about 200 feet in length for the passage of Blind Beck is finished. A skew bridge, over the highway at this point, is about half built.[2]


[1] The ‘7’ inserted here may be incorrect as this character was barely legible in the micro-fiche version of the newspaper.

[2] The article continues, covering the section of line between Selside and Batty Wife Hole. However, the library closed before I was able to transcribe the rest and, despite the passage of a decade (where did that time go?) I have not yet managed to make time for a re-visit.


The text quoted above was manually transcribed from a 35mm microfilm copy of the newspaper by Mark R. Harvey during a visit to Lancaster Library on July 10th, 2007.

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